Monday, December 9, 2013

Left Out In The Cold

As icy, wintery weather covers most of the U.S., Congress looks to be busy back in DC this week, getting ready to pass its own flurry - one made of last minute amendments and budget bargaining. Unfortunately, it looks as though Senator Rand Paul remains a perfect example of the modern Republican Party's ability to miss the true meaning of the season.

Sen. Paul insisted this weekend at a speech in Detroit - a town decimated by the selfish excesses of Wall Street and sabotaged by the GOP - that unemployment benefits are a "disservice" to workers. That's a convenient, if not cold, position for a member of Congress who would prefer to see unemployment benefits for millions of Americans left out of the proposed Federal budget agreement.

Indeed, Sen. Paul isn't alone among Republicans in Congress, or even among Republicans at the state level, in his zeal to hit poor Americans while they're already down. Nebraska's Republican governor, Dave Heineman, is also looking to act like a bad Santa, whacking the uninsured as a way to welcome in the new year.

Heineman, already attempting to plow the way for right-wing extremists in 2014's political contests, is pushing for yet another income tax cut, and "prison reforms" that would shovel millions in public funds to private prison contractors. All this during Heineman's lame duck year, even while he continues to ignore the massive cost to citizens in his state of refusing the Medicaid expansion.

Heineman's refusal to expand Medicaid for the poorest in his state might come off as just another standard Republican act of cruelty, if other conservative Republican governors like Jan Brewer of Arizona and John Kasich of Ohio hadn't already accepted and implemented the Medicaid expansion part of the ACA.

Thankfully, last week, Nebraska state Senator Jeremy Nordquist decided to stand up to the hypocrite Heineman, by starting a petition to get the Governor to forfeit his own insurance which is subsidized by Nebraskans - at least until the Governor agrees to allow low-income citizens in his state access to their insurance, which would also be subsidized by taxpayers.

After all, shouldn't the Governors of states have to live under the same rules of Obamacare that everyone else has to?

What the state Senator from Nebraska is fighting to close - and the GOP Governor there is fighting against closing - is the Medicaid service gap, created by the right-wingers on the Supreme Court, and Republican Governors like Heineman, who are more concerned with idealogy than reality.

The reality is that hundreds of small hospitals and medical centers, mostly in rural areas across the U.S., have been receiving subsidies for years from the Federal government. Under the old, broken system of health insurance, those hospitals took the payments to help cover their costs, due to the millions of uninsured Americans they collectively serviced.

Under the Affordable Care Act, however, all Americans are supposed to have health insurance, through either private insurers or Medicaid - meaning the Federal government no longer has to pay out those extra subsidies. In states like Nebraska and Georgia that have refused the Medicare expansion funds, without private insurers or Medicaid paying the bills of the uninsured, the small rural hospitals can't afford to stay open. In places like rural Georgia, hospitals are already closing, as Republican obstruction of Medicaid funds has run those small businesses into the ground.

If you're noticing some similarities between urban Detroit, rural America, and Republican policies that enrich their friends while gutting American businesses, then maybe you're not as blinded as GOP politicians like Rand Paul and Dave Heineman wish you were.

Unfortunately, that clarity of vision won't help those ultra-poor uninsured Americans, who will be left out in the cold without Medicaid expansion.

Truth is cold comfort when you're on the outside looking in.